Five decades after she started teaching yoga, 78-year-old Barbara Currie is performing the same stretches and is still in demand.
From teaching classes on Thames Television’s Magpie series and appearing on breakfast TV, to releasing three best-selling books and opening her own yoga school, Barbara Currie has had a huge impact on yoga’s popularity over the years. And she shows no signs of stopping.
“I was in my 20s, newly married with two children and had just moved to Scotland when I first discovered yoga. It was the 1960s and I had absolutely no idea what it was,” she remembers.
Yoga arrived in the UK in 1952 when Indian guru BKS Iyengar used yoga and meditation to help Yehudi Menuhin — one of the world’s finest violinists — overcome stage fright and anxiety. Before that, yoga was almost unheard of. The Inner London Education Authority latched on to Iyengar’s methods in 1969 and Barbara wasn’t far behind.
“I looked in the newspaper one morning wanting to find something to renew my body after having children,” she recalls.
“I went to my first class and couldn’t believe how it made me feel — it was like I was walking on air.”
Her first teacher was nearly 60 and in great shape and, as a newcomer, Barbara couldn’t help but feel inspired. “The perfection of her body was just brilliant and she was so full of life and enthusiasm. I thought, I don’t know what she’s doing, but I want in!”
Barbara went on to train as a teacher and continued to feed a passion that would later make her one of the UK’s most renowned yogis. During her 50 years as an instructor, Barbara has introduced thousands of people to the joys of yoga. From teaching in the studio and writing books, to appearing in newspapers and presenting on live television, it’s fair to say she has done it all.
It was the success of her first classes in Surrey that led her to presenting six morning programmes on Magpie , with Jenny Hanley and Tommy Boyd. “One lady in my class happened to be a researcher for the show. She wanted to help children into exercise because a lot of kids felt intimidated by sports, and she figured this new yoga trend could rectify this.”
And it was after those first six shows that Barbara became the yoga expert of the media world.
She released her first video, Shape Up with Yoga , followed by The Cellulite Beater and The Age Free Body — which went straight to number one in the fitness video charts. Barbara’s next success, The Power of Yoga , did the same and remained there for eight months.
“Videos weren’t even really heard of then. But I quickly grew to love making them. That was 40 years ago now.” Barbara then moved over to GMTV, where she worked with Lorraine Kelly, Eamonn Holmes, Fiona Phillips and Anthea Turner. “I loved their energy and had a great time on the show.”